The Gospel Car

Photos by Tobin Jones.

Text by Edith Honan. 


Just before dawn, on a chilly morning in Nairobi, a locomotive at the railway station in Kikuyu slowly reverses into a series of waiting carriages. School children and others heading into Nairobi sleepily emerge from the darkness, as they prepare to embark on the one hour trip into the city. 


As the train chugs slowly through Nairobi’s forests and open spaces, and then through jam-packed housing developments, edging ever closer to the city, people crowd onto the train – at first filling the seats, then the aisles, and finally even standing in the toilets to take advantage of the free space. The result is something quite unique – a blend of the old and new, progress mixed in with nostalgia.


Utmost amongst this blending of contradictions is the train’s first carriage, reserved for those who wish to worship on their way into work. From this carriage passengers listen to the impassioned sermons of well-practiced preachers – many testing out new material the way a comedian might on open mic night – and others dipping their feet into the waters of evangelism for the very first time.


Even more spectacular, though, is when the passengers erupt into songs of worship, which filter down the train’s corridors filling the air with music, waking up any passenger still groggy from their early morning start. 


Tobin Jones is a photojournalist.

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